God and Planes

Some of you may recall the post “Landing on the Hudson: Whose Miracle?” It was written after the emergency landing of US Air Flight 1549 in the Hudson River this past January. There was, amazingly, no loss of life due to the competency and skill of the pilot and the quick reactions of first responders getting to the downed plane. The abundant news reports that followed credited this to almost everyone except the one who really was in control–God. However, if we are going to acknowledge God’s power in preserving the lives aboard flight 1549, we must also acknowledge his power over flights that come to a less-than-desirable ending–in particular Air France Flight 447 that was lost off the coast of Brazil. RO recently left a comment on this particular post:

Thank you, I just got to read this in light of the Air France 447 flight that just disappeared on Sunday…would you mind expanding this study some more? I am having difficulty with this, b/c I am not surrendered to the fact that now, people have tragically lost their loved ones & in a most devastating way. Thank you again.

First of all I want to thank RO and all of you who leave comments. They are appreciated and provide an opportunity for interaction about important topics. I believe it is likely that RO was responding to this paragraph at the end of the post:

From miracle to tragedy–the cause of both is found in the purposes of God. When God chooses to show his forbearance and preserve lives, it is an opportunity to explain to your children that God shows mercy so that man would be reminded of God’s control and reach out to him in repentance. If this event had resulted in a chilling cartwheel of death, it would also have been a merciful reminder that God is God, that people’s lives are in his hands and it is foolish to delay repentance.

So what about Air France 447? Was it a senseless tragedy? Is God merely playing the role of celestial observer? Could he or should he have done anything to save this flight as he did for the US Air flight that landed safely? Let’s begin by establishing what the Bible says about God’s control. There are numerous passages that teach the absolute control of God over all the events of life. I am reminded of such passages as Genesis 1-2, Psalm 46, Psalm 73, Romans 8:28, Col. 1:15-20, and many others. Nebuchadnezzar’s statement in Daniel 4:35 provides a good summary:

All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: “What have you done?”

This is the God of the universe. His power knows no limits. He was not a helpless bystander when the Air France flight went down. While his ways are not our ways, we do know that He is a gracious and loving God. We know that he does not make mistakes. We know that God determines the exact location of each person on the planet. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him… (Acts 17:24-27). These humanly tragic events are designed by God to be a reminder of our human frailties and limitations.

Consider the awesome power of God. Click on the following link to go to  Flightaware.com. It shows the location of planes in the air over the United States.  Once there you will see numerous red dots. Each dot is an actual plane in the air as observed by radar. The Lord of Heaven and Earth maintained each of these flights. He determined when each flight would take off and land. He knows the thoughts and fears of each passenger on every plane. This is the power of God. This is the same power that Nebuchadnezzar spoke of. Each person on every plane is totally dependent upon the power and plans of God.

When there is an unexpected and shocking event such as the destruction of Flight 447, we tend to start thinking about the story only from the time of the incident. What is lost is the perspective that the lives of the people on board did not begin at the moment of the disaster. Each person on the flight had a personal history. Each one of them, according to Romans 1:18, was at war with God, aggressively pushing aside his truth in their lives.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth… ESV

This reminds us that man is not automatically entitled to life. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Therefore, we also know that every person on Flight 447 was deserving of the wrath of God. In this sense, no one aboard that flight was innocent. Because of the sin of man, God would be totally justified to end all life on earth right now. No one can stand before God and say that his life merited that he should be allowed to live–no one. This, of course, includes all of those on Flight 447.

So how is God glorified in this event? In light of the true nature of each person’s rebellion, God is indeed gracious to maintain the lives of all those who are on each of the red dots representing the planes in the air. God’s action with Flight 447 is not capricious. He was just and loving. He also maintained hundreds of thousands of lives on the other flights at that same moment that Flight 447 was lost. The people on those flights were not more deserving. Yet no one is asking in the news why so many were spared.

Here is the point to consider. Why did God allow the lives on all the other planes to continue? Because he desires that all whom he has called will reach out to him in repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

This loss of life and its impact on loved ones is devastating, humanly speaking. But this devastation should lead us to the realization that all men are accountable to God. Despite all of our technology and human progress, we are not in control of our lives. We have all offended and spurned the goodness and glory of God. We think we have a better way to live than what God has commanded. Apart from his mercy, shown through the death and life of Jesus Christ, there would be no reason to for life to go on. But because of the mercy of God in Christ there is reason to live. There is hope for all those on all the flights, as well as for all others on the planet. But that hope lies not in turning from God, but in crying out to him in repentance for mercy.

So in January God spared the lives of those on Flight 1549 to show his mercy and kindness. In June God brought down Flight 447 again to show his mercy and kindness. This event powerfully speaks that God and not man is in control. Life is stunningly short. God calls upon all men to repent and turn to him.

RO let me know if this addresses your concerns. Parents, teach your children about the mercy of God. Life goes on, not so that man can do what he wants. Life goes on because God has more lost people that he is calling to himself. He is indeed a God of wonder and mercy.

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